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A Handbook and Reader of Ottoman Arabic

Esther-Miriam Wagner

II. Reader

6. A weaver’s notebook from Aleppo (10th/16th century)

Boris Liebrenz et Kristina Richardson

Texte intégral

  • 1 The notebook, its place in Arabic literature, as well as the biography of its author are the object (...)

1At the end of the 10th/16th century and the beginning of the 11th/17th century, the Aleppine Kamāl al-Dīn, a weaver by profession, kept a notebook.1 Only a small fragment of it seems to have survived, held since the early 19th century in the Forschungsbibliothek Gotha in Germany. The remaining folios, from the years 997 and 998, contain descriptions of political and economic events, of meetings with friends and events in the market, or the weather; obituaries; riddles and sayings; stories and excerpts from books on history, religion, and law; a multitude of poems, many of his own making; in short, anything that this weaver deemed interesting to record at any point.

2Kamāl al-Dīn had a keen interest in reading, literature, and scholarship, but was not a career scholar himself. While he had studied several sciences to some degree in his youth (fol. 55v: al-maʿqūlāt wa-l-fiqh wa-ʿiddat ʿulūm), his only teacher held a minor post and remains unknown outside of Kamāl al-Dīn’s notebook.

3 Colloquial language is a feature of the poetic genre called zajal, in which the author works several times. He does not willingly employ it in his prose. Kamāl al-Dīn certainly makes several smaller mistakes in these passages. Yet his idiosyncrasies rarely exceed contemporary manuscript practices. These practices include the replacement of an ʾalif maqṣūra with a yāʾ, of a hamza with a yāʾ, or the omission of the points on the tāʾ marbūṭa. Thus, the sole instance of the word كطيطعا in our sample probably serves as an attempt to introduce an element of spoken language into the story and to mark the speaker as an uneducated worker.

4For the edition, we have adopted a set of orthographic standardisations to make the text more accessible: tāʾ marbūṭa with points; ʾalif maqṣūra without dots; ḥamza where necessary. We have also added some modern punctuation.


5Story of a hashish addict

6MS Gotha orient. A 114, fol. 7r

  • 2 كذا، والصواب :اعطيتك اياها. 2



8It is told

9that a ḥashīsh swallower bought hummus from the hummus vendor in a zabdiyya bowl that he borrowed from him against collateral, so that he wouldn’t neglect to return it. When he came home, he said to the people of the house: “When I get up in the morning, say to me: Take the zabdiyya!” And when he awoke, he dressed and wanted to get out, there was a woman saying: “Take the zabdiyya!” This was at a time when one could not tell faces apart. So, he stretched out his hand to take the zabdiyya, (…) there was a chamber pot. He wanted to take the zabdiyya, but took the chamber pot under his armpit. And the hummus vendor, through God’s power, against his usual habit, waited until he came. He handed over what he had under his armpit and the hummus vendor took it. When he saw that it was a chamber pot he came after him, reached him, and said: “Please! By God, where is my zabdiyya?” He said: “I gave it to you!” They wouldn’t stop arguing until the son of the ḥashīsh addict woke up and saw that his father had erred in picking up (what he thought was) the zabdiyya. When he reached his father, there they were, fighting over it. Then he realised that the cause was the absent-mindedness of ḥashīsh addicts.




1 The notebook, its place in Arabic literature, as well as the biography of its author are the object of an extended study that will accompany our edition of the text, to appear within the series Bibliotheca Islamica at the Orient-Institut Beirut.

2 كذا، والصواب :اعطيتك اياها. 2


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